Sunday, August 7

British Airways to resume short-haul flights to London Gatwick from March | British Airways


British Airways will return to short-haul flights from London Gatwick next year, the airline said, confirming the go-ahead from its planned subsidiary, BA Euroflyer.

BA, which stopped flying from West Sussex airport shortly after the Covid pandemic began, will relaunch its short-haul leisure network in late March 2022, ending a nearly two-year hiatus.

The flights will initially be operated by BA itself, but the airline intends to hand over the business to the subsidiary later next year once it has received regulatory approval. Its parent group, IAG, has said a new standalone business was needed to make the restart economically viable, citing years of losses for BA at Gatwick even before Covid arrived.

Tickets for flights to 35 short-haul destinations went on sale Tuesday. Three Airbus short-haul jets will start operating in March, and the active fleet will grow to 18 by the end of May.

BA Euroflyer, like the BA CityFlyer operation in London City, will remain the BA brand. Its launch came after unions initially rejected the plans, which are understood to require much more flexibility from pilots and crew in seasonal work than the normal BA roster allows. Thousands of employees were laid off during the pandemic and many could now be rehired on lower terms and conditions.

The Balpa pilots union said the final deal “would create up to 160 much-needed pilot jobs by 2022” and that it had been adapted to the point-to-point flight model used by other major airlines.

BA said fares would start from £ 39 one way, to be competitive with Gatwick’s simple airlines, led by easyJet, but would come with the airline’s usual baggage allowances and basic snacks on board.

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BA CEO Sean Doyle said it was a “historic moment” for the airline, adding: “The creation of a new British Airways short-haul organization means that Gatwick customers will benefit from access to service. UK flag carrier premium at competitive prices. “

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick CEO, said: “Despite the current public health situation, today’s announcement is a positive sign that consumer confidence is returning as people start to think about making travel plans. for next summer “.

While Gatwick and BA were optimistic about the launch, the airline and travel industry was shocked again after the government decided not to lift the testing regime in a travel announcement on Tuesday.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed the removal of the last 11 countries from the red list, but did not follow through on suggestions that the recently reimposed requirement for expensive PCR testing would be removed.

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: “If the red list is not necessary as [the Covid variant] Omicron is established here at home, so neither are the expensive emergency tests and isolation measures imposed even on fully vaccinated travelers, which again puts us at complete disagreement with the rest of Europe. “

Travel association Abta, which has reported that fall bookings are less than 30% of normal levels, said the government needed to explain why testing would hold up over the Christmas period, adding that it should provide financial support to the sector. Abta CEO Mark Tanzer said: “With the industry rapidly approaching the peak booking season for the summer of 2022, travel companies are facing a very dire situation. Consumer confidence in travel has suffered a significant setback, which will survive these restrictions. “

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Tourism body UKinbound said testing for vaccinated international arrivals was “stifling businesses in the inbound tourism industry.”

Eurostar said it had seen the booking rate cut in half since PCR testing recovered, with more cancellations or rearranged trips than new bookings for the Christmas period. Its chief executive, Jacques Damas, said the restrictions “came at a high price for the industry.”


www.theguardian.com

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